Camp Angel is a Perry Family Affair

Volunteering with Angel on My Shoulder is a family affair for Michelle and Jon Perry and their two children. Michelle and Jon serve as bus chaperones/supervisors for both summer and winter Camp Angel, while daughter Alayna is a Camp Counselor and son Reece joins as a camper.

A veteran who works as a commercial heat and frost insulator, Jon is also an avid hunter and fisherman. Michelle is an Educational Sign Language Interpreter for the Milwaukee Public School District.

Alayna is now a Senior at Rufus King in Milwaukee, with a passion for theater she’ll be pursuing in college. Reece is a 5th grader who’s involved in baseball, soccer and who recently went from a Cub Scout to a Boy Scout.

“Once we get to camp, we hit the ground running,” said Michelle. “We both help in whatever is needed to keep camp moving along.  I usually meet with Lolly and discuss how the trip has been thus far.  We load/unload the bus.  Jon is involved with making sure the camps are stocked with everything the kids need.  We offer support, take pictures, help facilitate activities and crafts.”

The Perry family first became involved with Angel On My Shoulder when Michelle was sick and undergoing treatment for APL (Leukemia). It’s been a family affair ever since.

“We wanted to be able to pay it forward after I was in remission,” Michelle said. “When Alayna went to camp, we met the bus chaperones that volunteered before us and decided it was an opportunity we would like to know more about.  We loved that we could do it as a family.”

Michelle and Jon pack everything needed for the bus on the way to Camp Angel and back. “This means we make sure there are snacks, meals and movies for the ride,” explained Michelle. “We connect with the parents beforehand, reassuring them of the experience (as this may be the first time away from home for some). We make sure they know about pick-up and drop off, what their child should expect while traveling with us, etc.”

Reece is a camper but will most likely become a counselor as he grows older. Alayna is currently a senior counselor and, along with brother Reece, helps with prepping before going to camp and upon their return.

When asked what some of the greatest benefits were of becoming involved with Angel On My Shoulder, Michelle said, “We have lost Jon’s mother, my uncle and several dear friends to cancer. My grandma was also a two time breast cancer survivor with mesothelioma. It has given our family an opportunity to have this time together and share our experiences first hand with others that are dealing with a cancer diagnosis in their family.”

“I like to think we have given other families hope that life can return to “normal” again,” she said. “Knowing firsthand what the children are dealing with gives us a unique perspective and opportunity to connect with them.”

Added Reece, “When we go to camp it takes our minds off of the sadness of our loved ones that are sick.  I like that you can have a happy time in your life even though sad things are happening at home.”

According to Alayna, “I used to, and sometimes still, feel quite alone at school and among other people because of my experience with cancer.  Camp Angel was a chance for me to learn that I am not alone when I was a child, and so now as a counselor I really try to enforce that mentality on my campers: they are not alone, we are all struggling together and genuinely understand what’s cancer is and can do to a family.”

Michelle said she remembers a young boy coming up to her and thanking her for doing what she does do and telling her he was thankful his grandfather had finally passed away.  He shared with her  how difficult it was to see him suffer.

Reece recalls the Saturday night of summer Camp Angel when they do the song at the end: “Calling all Angels” (a song Alayna likes as well, causing her to tear up when she hears it outside camp).

“My favorite camp activity is before my girls are winding down for the night and we all sit together in a circle and share why we are all at camp,” said Alayna. “This usually happens the first night of camp.  Before this the girls are a little shy of each other, but the next day they are inseparable.”

Asked what advice she would give to anyone looking to volunteer with an organization like Angle On My Shoulder, Michelle said, “I would advise for them to do it!  It may mean you have to step out of your comfort zone at some point but there are so many opportunities to help.  Something can be found for anyone’s level of commitment.”

“It has become a part of our life, a tradition if you will,” she added. “We have certainly gained more from these experiences then we have given and will be forever grateful for the opportunity to connect with some amazing and resilient people.”

Camp Angel (ages 7-12) was held January 26-28, 2018.

Camp Angel (ages 7-12) was held January 26-28, 2018. Our winter Camp Angel brought us forty-one amazing young campers.

This exuberant group of campers were welcomed by our campsite Co-Directors, Dick & Amy Lemke. The camper groups (Bunnies, Foxes, Bears and Wolves) and their counselors stayed in  awesome northwoods cabins complete with fireplaces. Together they enjoyed hot chocolate, snacks and a variety of games in a warm and cozy atmosphere of fun and friendship.

Our winter wonderland weekend began with Wildwood Wildlife stopping by on Friday evening. The campers got to meet and greet many wildlife furry friends up close and personal which always creates curiosity and smiles. We are beyond grateful to Wildwood Wildlife for this awesome and educational presentation which creates curiosity and brings happy camper smiles. Our Saturday day of fun was filled with many activities: snowmobile rides, ice bowling, sledding, climbing wall and snow shoeing. There were a variety of unique and interesting crafts including opportunities to make kaleidoscopes as well as warm and cuddly tie blankets to take home. Face painting, nail painting and hair braiding were also available . . . something for everyone. A great time was had by all.

Saturday night brought us a very special visit from Cliff the Magic Man who mesmerized us with his incredible bag of tricks. It brought smiles galore and was a huge hit with one and all.

We are extremely blessed and thankful for our outstanding counselors : Emily Kovach-Erickson, Alex Graziano, Nate King, Julia Naze, Tyrel Miller, Mckenzie Pipes, Cali Sanborn, Noah Weber and Walker Wendt led by Head Counselor, Myles Lemke.

A big round of applause to our entire Angel volunteer family (we simply couldn’t do it without them): Dick & Amy Lemke (Campsite Directors Extraordinaire), Wendy Lawfer & Cristina Reed-Roeser (Camp Nurses), Deana & John Bigley, Brad Gerdes, Rob &Traci Graziano, Brie Hoban, Jennifer Klingen, Marissa Martin, Eric Schoeneck, Joe & Joy Smoger and Mike Wolf.

A huge and heartfelt thanks to our Angel snowmobile team of volunteers: Ozzie Ausloos, Gary Groff, Carla &  Roger Klein and Penny & Mike McCormick for providing a day of exciting rides for our campers.

We gratefully acknowledge Camp Manitowish YMCA in Boulder Junction, WI (our winter campsite) and its fabulous staff for all their help in making this a memorable weekend.

 

 

A DIFFERENT WAY TO DONATE

Sometimes, when we look at all we have, we look for ways to pay it forward, with charitable intent. Doing so not only benefits the charity, such as ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER, however the donor receives tax benefits as well particularly when the gift is appreciated securities such as stocks and mutual funds.

Over the past few years, ANGEL has appreciatively received donations of stock from a couple in Milwaukee. Their gifting of stock motivated us to establish an account in which we can accept securities from donors like you who can also take advantage of the tax benefits while supporting our mission.

For information about donating stock or other eligible investments to ANGEL, you or your broker may contact Bonnie Stieber, VP – Personal Trust Services at WoodTrust Asset Management. Phone 715.301.1605 or write bonnie.stieber@woodtrust.com.

The Strauss Family Brings a Pirate Adventure to Angel Camps by Mark McNease

 

Steve and Linda Strauss, with the help of their children, set sail on a dream to build a pirate ship that would sail in the Eagle River chain of lakes during the summer months. The couple once ran a small resort on Duck Lake in Eagle River, and after recognizing a need for more family attractions in the area, they developed and pursued their vision.

Steve said, “With my background as an area carpenter for 15 years, in 2004 I decided to finally refurbish and customize a houseboat to build our ship.” Once it was built, they officially set sail on July 4th, 2004, and Eagle River Pirates was born.

“Being entrepreneurs and dreamers, we have developed a great appreciation for people that are passionate about their projects,” said Steve. After meeting Lolly Rose and hearing about Angel On My Shoulder, they experienced Lolly’s passion and wanted to be a part of it. “We spoke with Lolly and set up donated rides where the kids could have fun, join the adventure, and experience the beauty of our area lakes as they worked through the difficult times that brought them to camp in the first place.”

Steve said they always have fun with the Angel On My Shoulder crew. They do two events through the summer, one with younger campers, and one with Camp Teen Angel.

“When our younger campers arrive they are greeted by pirates and bravely board the pirate ship,” said Steve. “We set sail, and throughout our journey on the water, kids enjoy popcorn and lemonade (two true pirate delicacies).”

The kids each have blank white T-shirts and fabric markers. They decorate each other’s shirts, and get their shirts “tattooed” by Captain Steve, and signed by first-mate-Stevo (son Steve Strauss).

“The conversations and decorating of the tees throughout the cruise provide a nice bonding experience amongst the kids,” Steve said. “Also, they can document their memories on the lake with one-time-use cameras.” A similar experience awaits the Teen Angels, except they’re given a shore lunch and get to walk the plank!

“Our mission at Pirates Hideaway is to inspire a sense of imagination and play within the individuals that join us on our journey,” Steve said. “We feel honored that our services have the opportunity to inspire tremendously deserving children as they cope with changes that have such a personal impact on their lives.”

Steve, Steve-O and the Strauss family have been working with Angel On My Shoulder long enough that it’s hard to pinpoint just one standout experience among the many they’ve had. According to Steve, just getting to know the organization over the years has been heartwarming. He added, “Going from perceiving their mission, to truly understanding it, and really becoming a part of it has been beyond special and will always be memorable for us.”

When asked what he would say to anyone interested in getting involved, Steve said, “You will never regret it. By volunteering with Angel On My Shoulder you have the opportunity to share in a community where the founders, counselors, and volunteers all share the same positive passion and purpose. The privilege of working with the children is empowering, and you can truly make meaningful differences in their lives with your interactions and participation.”

The Lemkes Make Volunteering a Family Affair by Mark McNease

 

Dick and Amy Lemke have a genuine passion for helping kids, a passion they’ve shown through their involvement with summer and winter Camp Angel. Happily married for six years, Dick has two sons from a first marriage—Cody, who lives in Madison, Myles, who lives in Milwaukee, and daughter Taylor from his second marriage, who lives in Chicago with grandchild Ava, now three.

Dick works for Superior Diesel in Rhinelander and has been involved with Angel On My Shoulder since 2000, when his first wife Dawn was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and he decided to sign up for the first Polar Bear Plunge.

Amy became involved almost eleven years ago with her co-worker from the local radio station.  “Mike Wolf came up with the idea of the Polar Bear Plunge, and when he started working at WRJO he had an idea about doing an extended on-air fundraiser prior to the Plunge to help raise more money for Camp Angel,” Amy said. “And that’s when we decided to embark on our first Pledge-a-Thon!” Mike introduced Amy to the frigid January waters with her first Polar Bear Plunge and they have continued the Pledge-a-Thon ever since. Amy joined the crowd of jumpers for the next few years, then transitioned into the role of MC for the event and is still doing that today.

Dick met with Lolly during the plunge and she asked if his sons would be interested in coming to a summer and winter camp.  She was also looking for volunteers who had snowmobiles to give rides to children for the winter camp.  Both Dick and Dawn gave rides until her passing on 2008.  Their sons have been campers and have volunteered as counselors over the years. Myles continues to volunteer and is the head counselor for the winter camps.

As Co-Campsite Directors of the summer and winter Camp Angel, Dick and Amy coordinate the activities with each camp location, set up the food process, arrange for special needs for the campers, and all other details for the camp, including coordinating volunteers and the transportation needs for all the children.  “We also oversee any issues that may come up like weather, injuries, illnesses, etc,” said Dick.

After Dawn passed, Lolly asked Dick if he would get more involved with the camps. Then, when Dick and Amy got married, Lolly asked if they would like to become the directors for the winter camp and they accepted.  “After the annual newsletter for AOMS came out Lolly wrote that we were the winter AND summer camp directors,” Dick said. “Well who can say ‘NO’ to Lolly? “

Amy and Dick have been the directors for both camps ever since.  First and foremost in memory of Dawn. The camps meant very much to her, so the Lemke family wants to carry that on.  Also because Amy and Dick love to help these children, having seen the benefits first hand, not only through their own children but with all the campers over the years.

The Plunge holds a very special place for the couple: Not thinking what would happen if Amy said no in front of a thousand people, Dick proposed at the event, and the rest is history!

They’ve met many great people over the years who they consider a whole new family, everyone giving their time and love to these children.  Dick said it’s been a great benefit having his family involved, from his boys to his sister’s family and even his Mom, who plays a big part with the camps. Over the years these kids have stayed in touch, not only with each other but with Amy and Dick. “Being involved with Angel On My Shoulder not only changes a child’s life… it changes yours!”

Angels in Every Sense of the Word

Dan and Sue Beihoff, owners of Eagle River Roasters and longtime residents of Eagle River, have supported Angel On My Shoulder in every way possible, from sponsoring a food hole on the golf course, to creating and offering Angel coffees and teas at their store and on their website with proceeds going to the charity.

Proud parents of four children (Dan, NickElena and Max), the Beihoffs have become part of the Angel family. 

“My kids have volunteered at some of the camps and have come away with a new respect of what others are experiencing in life,” Dan said. 

Dan spoke of Lolly Rose with great affection. “She became a regular customer and a friendship developed,” he said. “One of the table and chair sets is known as ‘Lolly’s office.’ It has a large collage of Angel On My Shoulder Polar Plunge pictures above it, as we have had our own team for many years now.”

Dan said Lolly told them the story of Angel’s founding and it touched their hearts. “We do private label coffees and teas for Lolly with profits going to support Angel On My Shoulder,” he said. 

“Lolly and Angel On My Shoulder have welcomed us into her family as she has become more than a dear friend,” Dan added. “She is part of our personal family, too.”

Golf Honorees in 2017 for the Angel Golf Spectacular, Dan and Sue also presented and sponsored Angel’s newest offering last year: The Eagle River Roasters Oasis on the Patio that included their own Roasters breakfast specialties. 

Dan has an entrepreneurial background that has been vital to their own business and helped with their efforts to contribute to Angel On My Shoulder. A developer of business and cultivator of opportunities, Dan hails from the well-known Beihoff Music Company of Milwaukee. Sue is a creative and gifted graphic artist in her own rightThe couple owned and operated the Cranberry Gift House for a number of years, later transforming it into the Eagle River Roasters. Last year they fulfilled a long-time dream of Dan’s by creating and introducing the newest addition to their coffee house, a uniquely elegant “Cupping Room.”            

The Roasters is wellrepresented by its Team of Plungers at the annual Original Northwoods Polar Plungea tremendously successful fundraiser with Angel as the recipient. The Baristas bravely plunge into the icy waters of Spirit Lake after collecting an incredible amount of donations in the form of pledges.

When asked what he would say to someone looking to get involved with Angel On My Shoulder, Dan said, “If anyone is looking for an organization to become involved in that directs such a high percentage of donations directly to the programs—this is it!”

“It is truly rewarding to know that we are able to help some of our most vulnerable in a society today,” Dan said. “Our children, even for just a little while.

Taking the Plunge to Make a Difference

If you’ve spent time listening to WRJO you’ve heard Mike Wolf, Heartland Corporate Director of Programming and on-air host. What started 18 years ago as an idea at a fish fry grew into an annual Plunge that has raised a half million dollars since that first icy dive.

“Former owners of the original plunge location, George and Lois Ruediger, my wife Wendi and myself were sitting down to a fish fry,” Mike explained. “We started talking about radio station events and activities, when George and Lois asked if I had any ideas for an event we could have at the resort to help people enjoy and celebrate Wisconsin Northwoods winters. I suggested a Polar Bear Plunge. We wondered if anyone would show up. They did! We had over 30 people show up the first year and raised over $8000.00. What can’t a fish fry do?”

Realizing in the beginning that the Plunge needed a benefactor, Lois Ruediger suggested Angel On My Shoulder, a charity in St. Germain that was helping the cancer-effected community.

Mike said, “We went with it, not knowing what a difference it would make in all of our lives. We approached Lolly Rose about partnering up and that’s when we started to learn what an amazing organization Angel is, and what an incredibly strong person Lolly is. Being part of the Angel Family is an awesome feeling, knowing how many hundreds of people every year benefit just from one lady’s vision.”

 

WRJO also conducts a Pledge-a-Thon to work in conjunction with the Plunge and help bring awareness and donations to the effort.

“The Pledge-a-Thon gives us a chance to paint a broader picture of what Angel does for the cancer affected community,” Mike added. “We are able to conduct interviews, and share our personal stories about Camp Angel. It also gives those who would otherwise not be able to make the Plunge a chance to donate to Angel.”

When asked about that cold water, Mike said, “The water is definitely cold, but what I would tell anyone about taking the Plunge is that it takes less then 30 seconds of cold to send a kid to camp for an entire weekend.”

There was some speculation at the last Plunge that it might be the final one, having reached the half million dollar donation mark, to which Mike responded, “Is cancer gone? Then we can’t give up on those kids. We’ve had members of our Plunge staff lose loved ones to cancer that brought them to Angel, and we’ve lost Plunge staff members to cancer in the last few years. Not only do we continue for the kids but we also continue in their honor.”

Mike said the benefit of the Plunge, Pledge-a-Thon, time and effort that goes into this event are more than worth it.

“I go to camp and see the kids just hanging out having fun, being kids,” he said. “Something that because of the effects of cancer on their families they are not able to do on a daily basis. Seeing them making new friends and learning they are not alone in their situation is priceless.”

“A half a million dollars!,” Mike said in closing. “Let that sink in for a few seconds. Every day women, men, kids, and even some crazy radio DJ’s have taken the plunge and raised an incredible amount of money. No corporate sponsorship, just everyday people with one goal in mind. Just get those kids to camp. Everyone involved in the Plunge, from the organization, to set-up or take down, as well as the plungers, are what Angel On My Shoulder is all about, and being proud members of the Angel Family.”

Random Acts of Kindness

Kathy and John Dirkse been longtime supporters of Angel On My Shoulder. The couple became involved after being invited to the Golf Spectacular.

“The message hit us like a brick,” said Kathy. “The randomness of cancer, and no one is guaranteed to be immune.”

Since that time, three of six people in their family have been diagnosed with cancer but are doing great, and Kathy considers them the luckiest family in the world. All big sports fans, they love to spend time together as a family.

The Dirkses currently live in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Married in 1999, Kathy and John have a combined family with four children, ranging in age from 23 to 31.

Kathy is Vice President of Government and Community Relations at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a large part of both their clinical as well as research portfolio is cancer treatment and research.  She considers herself blessed to work with some of the greatest cancer physicians and researchers.

John, Executive Vice President of Aegis Corporation, a firm he started 25 years ago with his partner, was first asked to sponsor a foursome for the Angel Golf Spectacular approximately the second year it was held.  Being an avid golfer, he said yes.

“At the time, we felt very blessed in that neither John nor I had really been impacted by cancer,” said Kathy. “What really impressed John and I was the fact that Angel’s programs were directed at the people impacted by cancer, the person with the disease but also all those surrounding that person.  I remember the first time I attended, watched a video about the kids going to camp and how it was a time they could get away and not think about their sick mom, dad, sibling, etc…  That did it, I cried like a baby and both John and I were all in at that point.”

Kathy said what impresses her most is that the organization is 100% volunteer and that the funds raised go directly to the people impacted by cancer. She is also impressed by the dedication, kindness, and generosity of each person helping out with Angel’s mission.

“We have so many wonderful memories of the Angel Golf Specular,” Kathy said. “For years, we invited my parents to join us and they brought their best friends.  Those weekends not only helped raise funds for Angel, but have given us a lifetime of very wonderful family memories now that my parents have passed.”

I asked Kathy about Vincent the Bunny.

“Vincent represents every parent’s nightmare and hope at the same time because a child lives on in memory and has made such an impact,” she said.

“Vincent was the stuffed bunny of a beautiful young boy, Vincent, who died of cancer.  When he passed, his mom donated his stuffed bunny.  Since that time, Vincent the Bunny has been auctioned off at the Golf Spectacular.  Vincent is far too precious to actually be a traveling bunny, he stays with Lolly Rose for safe keeping until the next year when he is again auctioned off to raise funds for Angel.  The winner, and everyone else in the room during the auction, receives something far more valuable than a stuffed animal, we all receive the honor of holding the memory of Vincent forever in our hearts.”

When I asked Kathy about her family’s personal experience with cancer, she said, “Well, that’s cancer right … It sneaks up on you without warning. It cares nothing about who you are, your life plans; it is random and unexpected.  Like many families, cancer came as a shock and literally shook every one of us to the core of our being.”

“Our family is ridiculously blessed,” she added. “After getting a diagnosis of “cancer”, we are all here.  In many ways, I don’t believe we are “worthy” of telling our story because we are so much better off than millions of other people who have lost their lives or their loved ones to cancer, like Vincent.  In today’s world, there is so much that divides us yet in our cancer journey, I only see what makes us all the same.”

As for what makes Angel On My Shoulder special to Kathy and John, she said, “The name says it all. For anyone impacted by cancer, the organization is an angel on your shoulder.  AOMS is there to help in any way imaginable.  The organization will always hold a very special place in my heart.”

Winter Camp Angel 2018

Winter Camp Angel 2018 Room place at a beautiful Northwoods campsite in Boulder Junction. The Camp is a cost-free weekend camp for kids 7 – 12 who are affected by the cancer of a close family member (sibling, parent or grandparent), or who have experienced the loss of that family member due to cancer. We want to offer these kids a break from cancer and provide them with a well supervised atmosphere of love and understanding. At Winter Camp Angel these friends meet others facing similar situations and shared lots of fun, positive experiences and wintery activities. 

Our kid campers stayed in cozy Northwoods cabins: complete with individual fireplaces to keep everyone warm and toasty. The campers enjoyed plenty of snacks and hot chocolate while playing games and getting to know each other and their counselors.

Campers also enjoyed snowmobile rides and sledding just to name a few other activities. They also have an opportunity to experience the climbing wall along with arts and crafts. Many interesting, unique and educational presentations were offered including a very special annual visit from Wildwood Wildlife Park and their handlers who bring all sorts of cute little critters (even a skunk!) for the campers to admire.

A Hero Behind the Superhero Capes

A retired postmaster from Marshfield, Wisconsin, Linda Dick saw an article and turned it into an idea. A few years before retiring, she read about a project that creates and provides superhero-themed capes for children in hospitals and in devastated areas. Then, when retirement time came around, she decided that was what she should be doing.

Linda said, “I went up to St. Joseph’s Hospital—that’s what it was called then—and presented my idea to make capes for sick kids.”

Using a variety of designs, Linda says each cape has a superhero logo on the back and takes one to three hours to complete.

Linda knows from personal experience what cancer is like for a family. Her daughter Lindsay, who she describes as having been her best friend and confidant, passed away in December, 2016. Linda is married with two surviving sons who help her through the rough times. She also has nine grandchildren, two of whom were Lindsay’s and were aged two and four when their mother died.

“Lindsay was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma in her check in February, 2016,” said Linda.  “She loved hunting so I made her a pink camo cape with superman logo in pink on the back. She wore it to many of her appointments, chemos and radiations.”

When Linda’s sewing buddy asked her to help her make some capes, she responded  with, “I got this.”

Linda says fleece is easy to work with, doesn’t need to have the edges sewn, and she can just cut out and add Velcro to the neck tabs. She made 169 capes of all different colors and sizes for summer Camp Hozhoni, held the weekend of September 8-10, 2017. This cost-free weekend camp is for children who have experienced cancer, past or present, and their families. The theme of last year’s camp was Hozhoni Heroes, acknowledging the fact that these brave children are our cancer warriors and heroes.

Capes were presented to everyone in attendance, along with masks, and everyone was adorned in colorful hero garb for the opening ceremonies and activities throughout camp. The capes added to the excitement and fun of this wonderful camp. 21 SUPER Families and 44 DYNAMIC volunteers enjoyed the MARVELous weekend festivities and everyone had the opportunity to display the super hero inside all of us for a little while.

“It’s just nice to know you can brighten someone’s day for a while,” said Linda. “My daughter even helped me cut some out on her better days.”

Linda said, “It is a great feeling to know you can do something to help brighten the day of someone who is sick. It fills some of my time so I don’t have to think.”

In addition to making capes, Linda has many other sewing projects for the hospital. She sews patient bags, doll gowns and taggy blankets. She also sews smocks and fitted sheets. “Mostly whatever they ask,” Linda said. “I help my sewing buddy with sleep caps for adult cancer patients, backpacks and bags for under the arm for breast cancer patients. This is what I do in the winter, in the summer I garden and have flowerbeds.”

Linda encourages everyone to find a way to contribute to others’ lives.

“If anyone has spare time, there is always a need somewhere, sometime, something for you to do if you are willing,” she said. “I would say ‘Give back when you can.’ It helps you more than anyone.”